Speech at Rally for Gaza and Palestine


Mairead Maguire, 1976 Nobel Peace Laureate – TRANSCEND Media Service

At City Hall, Belfast, N. Ireland – 24th November 2012

‘Hello everybody, I would like to thank the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and all others for organising this rally and for inviting me to speak. I wish to thank also each and every one of you for coming along.

We heard that the ceasefire has been declared but we know that this is not the end of the siege of Gaza or the occupation of the people of Palestine. We witnessed yet again on our television sets last week inhumanity that we cannot believe is allowed to exist. It was called ‘self-defence’. But how can you call self-defence the massacre of women and children in Gaza and the destruction of their infrastructure? This is a war crime, these are crimes against humanity, and we declare that Netanyahu is a war criminal. And we can do something about this.

We can ensure that when any of the Israeli leaderships such as, Perez, Netanyahu and their military war executive, try to leave their country and come to any civilized country, we as the people will issue our own indictments of war crimes. We, the people, have to stand up for human rights, for international law, for democracy, for a future for our world, because if we don’t do this, our world will plunge into war and to destruction and to barbarity and we will not have such a thing as a civil or political or religious liberty or right.

We elect politicians to serve the people, to stand up for our right to food, education, safety and security. Our politicians are failing us dismally; we have no real political leadership with any moral courage in our world today. We supported Obama when he came in and said ‘there is a new way’. President Obama stood in Burma this week and he said: ‘ There is no excuse for violence against innocent people’.

What was his message about the violence against the people of Gaza? What has his message been about the violence, occupation, destruction, persecution, apartheid regime against the Palestinian people for the last 60 years? Minutes are available from white house two weeks ago when the administration made a firm commitment to Israel’s right to self-defence and to opposing anyone at (UN) who would question Israeli methods.

What kind of political leadership is that to our people in the world today? The biggest block to real change is not Israel but the United States of America continually vetoing and supporting the murder of children in Gaza and war against civilians. We have to know what Israel is about. Jimmy Carter gave an interview last week and said that the policy of the Israeli government is to confiscate Palestinian land. The policy of the Israeli government is to take more and more Palestinian land, they want a greater Israel and not only do they want a greater Israel, they want the 20% of the Arab people who live within Israel proper to acknowledge Israel as a ‘Jewish state’. They want a Jewish state for a Jewish people. When do they think we’re living? Do they think we’re living in the dark ages? Every person has a right to their statehood. Every person has a right to their freedom, a right to dignity. But it’s about the land stupid! It’s about the land as Bill Clinton would say, it’s about the territory, stupid!

Let’s wake up, this is not about Hamas, this is not about the fact that Israel has no partner for peace. I sat with Yasser Arafat in his little compound before he was killed and he cried out for peace. I sat in Gaza with Hamas in 2008 and they cried out for peace. What was Israel’s answer? Israel’s answer was war against them, and not only dropping one or two bombs but the policy of the Israeli government, and look it up, is that when they go to war, they do the utmost damage. They don’t kill one or two, they destroy the whole people.

There’s a new concept available now, it’s called ‘Sociocide’; you know our philosophers and our professors, too many of them who sit behind university walls, if it’s not going out to new links with other universities so they can get more money for military experiments. Sociocide means another country destroys a people’s whole ability to even live and this is what’s happening in Gaza. The Gaza people, their identities, are being destroyed as Palestinians, their country is being destroyed as Palestinians, their children are being killed, their spirit is being dampened, they’re being demonised by the Israelis as if they were nothing. Who are the Palestinians?

The Israelis created another lie in 1948 when they said they went to ‘a land without people’, they went to a land that was full of the very best of people, good people, kind people, people who opened their hearts to them coming in, in 1948, people who gave them homes and supported them and what did the Israeli’s do? What did the Zionists do? In 1948, they cleared over 400 Palestinian villages, putting the people out of their homes. The Palestinians had to flee their land, this was ‘The Nakba’ of the Palestinian people was genocide and as important as the genocide of the Holocaust and I’ve been to Auschwitz, I am not an Anti-Semite. I’ve been to Auschwitz, I’ve seen the suffering and in Auschwitz I swore the next time I see people suffering like this I would not remain silent and we must not remain silent. It is a myth that The Nakba and the ethnic cleansing that went on in 1948 by the Israelis is over. It’s happening today as we stand.

The Israelis are clearing villages in the Negev desert so they can take over the very best of Palestinian land. We must stand up against this. This is not acceptable and we’re not powerless. We’re not powerless! The people of Northern Ireland are not powerless because we know what it’s like bombings, shootings and killings, and fear and division. And we stood up and we said this is not acceptable. So the people of Israel and Palestine together can stop this. They have to do it, because the world leaders are not going to do it. The people have to do it and do it together, because Israelis too are suffering.

We must support the Israeli Peace Activists. They are on a hard road but their message is right. Their message is nonviolence, dialogue and solving this problem. It’s not who started this problem; it’s who will end it. Boycott all Israeli goods. Boycott Israel and the companies that trade with them. Divest from Israel and the countries that support Israel. We must applaud the Co-op, because the Co-op was one of the first retailers that come out with a very strong Boycott campaign. We send out from this platform our thanks to them as we implore more and more to follow their example. But, you know, also sanctions, sanctions against the arms that are flowing into Israel. We must say to America, you are breaking your own laws because every day you have 8 million dollars going to support the militarism of Israel. They are being used illegally by Israel and America has to stop this. Europe too has a lot of work, Europe funds Israel, Israel gets more money out of the European Kitty and that’s our money, to do military research so it can remain a nuclear weapon country, the fourth biggest army in the world.

We’re paying for that, so they use it to destroy a country and destroy the buildings that our tax money built in Gaza. This is not acceptable. We are powerful but the most important thing, our greatest enemy is cowardice, our greatest enemy are those who refuse to speak the truth because of their own fear. Our greatest enemies are news media like the BBC, which tell lies about what is happening. Where are the media that report exactly what is happening? We demand, we’re paying tax, we’re paying our license and we want the truth.

Thank you very much for all you’re doing. There’s great hope because I have met with Israeli activists, and I have met with the Palestinian people and their messages of nonviolence. Palestine has a great nonviolence movement, a great nonviolent movement, tragically a lot of them are in Israeli prisons. So we together can solve this and help our Palestinian people. We did it in Northern Ireland and we are a model. People said it couldn’t be done but we said it would not be done through militarism, armed struggle or violence. It will be done with truth and courage and love and forgiveness and we can do it. That’s our message to the Israeli and Palestinian people. You can do it another way.’


Mairead Corrigan Maguire is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace, Development and Environment. She won the 1976 Nobel Peace Prize for her work for peace in Northern Ireland. Her book The Vision of Peace (edited by John Dear, with a foreword by Desmond Tutu and a preface by the Dalai Lama) is available from www.wipfandstock.com. She lives in Belfast, Northern Ireland. See: www.peacepeople.com.

Join the BDS-BOYCOTT, DIVESTMENT, SANCTIONS campaign to protest the Israeli barbaric siege of Gaza, illegal occupation of the Palestine nation’s territory, the apartheid wall, its inhuman and degrading treatment of the Palestinian people, and the more than 7,000 Palestinian men, women, elderly and children arbitrarily locked up in Israeli prisons.

DON’T BUY PRODUCTS WHOSE BARCODE STARTS WITH 729, which indicates that it is produced in Israel.    DO YOUR PART! MAKE A DIFFERENCE!



This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 3 Dec 2012.

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